Cast: Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, Miles Teller, Jennifer Connelly, Bashir Salahuddin, Jon Hamm, Charles Parnell, Monic Barbaro, Lewis Pullman, Jay Ellis and Glen Powell
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Top Gun – Maverick’s creators aim high and fly low. The strategy is effective. It assures that they don’t miss the objective they’ve set for themselves, as well as the return of main actor Tom Cruise to the cockpit after a 36-year absence.
Since 1986’s Top Gun, which provided Cruise with one of his first big blockbusters as an actor, a lot has happened. Given the charisma the actor radiates and the fact that the picture arrives at the conclusion of two traumatic years for the entire world, this one, too, has the potential to be a hit.
The sequel, directed by Joseph Kosinski and written by Ehren Kruger, Eric Warren Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie, doesn’t quite “turn and burn” like the film’s training pilots, but it does manage to whizz about in style, effectiveness, and, most importantly, entertainment.
Tom Cruise, who is approaching 60 years old in real life, plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a navy aviator who has refused to accept a promotion in order to avoid being taken out of active duty. Top Gun – Maverick captures part of the protagonist’s I’ll-hang-in-there-no-matter-what bravado. Although the emotional stakes are at the heart of the tale – for whatever it’s worth – it remains on track and avoids needless diversions.
The story unfolds on numerous levels. The main one concerns Maverick’s tumultuous connection with the elite pilots who have been called from their squadrons to be prepared for a mission that will test them to their limits. If they have any admiration for their hesitant instructor, it is grudging.
Pete Mitchell’s ability to entice them out of their crusty shells and carry them along as they launch an attack on a rogue mountain country that is surreptitiously refining uranium in a difficult-to-access gorge. The mission carries a high level of danger. Maverick is well aware that this may be his final mission.
Kosinski, who helmed Tom Cruise in Oblivion, takes the Top Gun heritage seriously and places the actor at the centre of it all, with little regard for the storyline. He regularly puts on a show with his aerial skills.
The show’s star, no longer the sprightly young man he was in the mid-1980s, is acutely aware of the passing years and infuses the passage of time and its influence into the character’s personality as well as the physical elements of the performance.
Tom Cruise takes us back to a simpler time in Top Gun – Maverick, when he could make wearing aviator sunglasses feel like a cultural breakthrough and getting into a cockpit feel like an act designed to distinguish the men from the boys. Keep an eye on the film’s history. It’s full of references to the original Top Gun.
The picture flies boldly and sturdily to present a crackling terrific mainstream cinema experience, not that what it delivers is trapped in a bygone period.